I’ve heard from so many mamas, they NEED some natural remedies for ear infections.
I hear you! Ear infections are surprisingly common, in kids especially, but adults get them too. While ear infections can be very serious, most often they resolve on their own.
The standard medical approach is using antibiotics and many parents are realizing that unnecessary and aggressive antibiotic use is causing a ton of harm.
My kiddo was injured by antibiotics so I get it. Antibiotics are amazing and lifesaving under the right circumstances, but more often than not these drugs are being handed out when they aren’t necessary and when natural remedies can (and often do) fix the problem.
So today I’m giving you a handful of solutions that you can try to ease the ache and treat one of the most common conditions.
Now before you go shoving oils and drops in the ear consider what causes ear pain. Remember not all earaches are from ear infections.
Ear pain can be caused by viruses, allergies, colds, inflammation, and even foreign objects (does your toddler have a propensity for sticking things where they don’t belong?). So consider this before proceeding with any natural remedies.
One last thing, because ear infections can be caused by a variety of things I recommend you have a medical professional confirm the diagnosis and check that there is no eardrum perforation.
If there is perforation DO NOT put anything in the ear (nor if there are ear tubes).
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Garlic + Mullein Ear Oil
This is hands down my favorite remedy, and for good reason, it works!
I first read about this remedy in Rosemary Gladstar’s book Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health. A book I HIGHLY recommend to any family interested in natural remedies.
You can buy garlic ear oil online, my favorite is this one from Herb Pharm which also has mullein, calendula and St. John’s wort flower extracts.
Garlic is a very effective antimicrobial and often used to treat a variety of bacterial infections. Garlic has been traditionally used by many cultures for centuries.
This is my go-to remedy for young and old. I simply warm the bottle of oil in a mug of warm water then add one or two drops to BOTH ears up to three times a day. Many people report relief within an hour.
The reason you want to treaty both ears is because the tubes are connected and an ear infection can travel from one ear to another. So take care of both ears.
Also, anytime I’m dealing with bacteria I like to keep dosing a few days after the symptoms are gone just to make sure it won’t come back. Bacteria is very opportunistic so stay vigilant!
Full disclosure, I’ve personally never used essential oils for this use but I do use them for plenty of other remedies. But I know lots of you use essential oils so I wanted to include a remedy as an option.
The book, Evidence Based Essential Oil Therapy, by Dr. Scott A. Johnson, suggests the following essential oil protocol…
For children under 1 year
Mix together 1 drop each of lavender and melaleuca (aka tea tree) oil in 1-2 teaspoons of carrier oil. His directions say to apply a small amount of the mixture around (NOT IN) the ear then place a drop on a cotton ball and place the cotton ball in the ear. Replace the cotton ball every half hour until symptoms are relieved.
For those over 1 year
Mix together 1 drop each of lavender, melaleuca (aka tea tree), basil, and thyme oil in 1 teaspoon of carrier oil. Apply a small amount of the mixture around (NOT IN) the ear then place a drop on a cotton ball and place the cotton ball in the ear. Replace the cotton ball every half hour until symptoms are relieved.
I have also seen tea tree oil suggested on other essential oil websites and groups so this seems to be another widely used remedy (though I haven’t personally tested it).
Oral Oregano Oil (adults + kids over 5 only)
My go to remedy for ANY bacterial infection is oral oregano oil capsules (pure oregano oil in a carrier oil).
The main antibacterial component of oregano oil is carvacrol which is abundant in both oregano oil and thyme oil (source). Carvacrol is a very potent antimicrobial that can be used against a variety of pathogens.
Since capsule quantities vary follow the direction on your bottle but generally I use 1 capsule once daily for infections and 1 capsule twice daily twelve hours apart for serious infections.
Keep in mind oregano is very potent and may also kill off unwanted and potentially good bacteria (though I have yet to find confirmation that it does or does not affect the good bacteria of the gut).
If you have a child over five with an infection and want to try oregano oil please consult your integrative pediatrician about age and dosage recommendation for internal use with a child.
A great supportive remedy (in addition to the ear oil) are probiotics.
Probiotics can strengthen the immune system, keep harmful bacteria under control, and soothe the gastrointestinal track which may help with systemic inflammation. This is the kind I buy for my little one. This is the kind I use for myself at the moment.
Since ear pain can be caused by food sensitivities (probably from a combination of unbalanced microbiome and unchecked inflammation) giving probiotics is a sensible addition to your protocol.
Anytime anyone is sick I always double our probiotics and add extra fermented foods like raw coconut kefir, raw saurkraut, raw pickles, raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar, raw kombucha, and so on.
Probiotics are great for young and old just make sure you are buying an age appropriate formula and one that is high quality.
Rest, Liquids, and Vitamins C + D (supportive)
Not a cure in itself but I should point out that when the body is healing you need to give it as much rest as needed. This isn’t the time to get stuff done, send your sick kiddos to school, or catch up on your to-do list. Get plenty of rest so you can recover.
Anytime I’m sick, or my kiddo is sick I always boost our vitamin C and vitamin D.
The best sources are natural, that means getting direct sunshine (but please not to where you get red…that’s a sign you’ve had enough) but you can also supplement if your levels are low.
I take non-GMO vitamin C when I need a boost but also like to boost my food sources of vitamin C. You can also try a high vitamin C food like camu-camu powder (works well in smoothies) which also has many other nutrients. You can read my post on vitamin C here.
Also make sure you are drinking plenty of water. If you are fighting any infection, viral or bacterial, your immune system, detoxing organs, and lymph system will be working overtime. Make sure are drinking plenty of filtered water and staying well hydrated.
If you find that your lymph system is clogged and sluggish you might enjoy an epsom salt bath. I like to take a warm epsom salt bath to encourage proper lymph function and encourage detoxification while taking in a healthy amount of magnesium.
Avoid Inflammatory Foods (supportive)
This is another thing to add to the protocol. This should go without saying but if you or your child are fighting illness or infection then you must support the system with nourishing and healing foods.
Avoid foods that are most often associated with allergies and sensitivities. Foods to cut are gluten/wheat, dairy, eggs, sugar (which can tank your immune system), and of course any processed foods.
If you have recurrent ear infections, eczema, stomach upset then food sensitivities may be the culprit. The easiest way to figure this out is with an elimination diet. Avoid the food completely for about a month then slowly reintroduce the excluded food(s) one at a time. If you experience achy joints, headaches, gas, or a recurrence of your symptoms then this food may be to blame.
And if you just found this page and aren’t aware of how I roll then please let me reiterate, absolutely no crap “food”. Most of the “food” eaten today causes chronic inflammation, imbalances the gut, tanks the immune system, and sets your body up for total collapse.
That means no fast food, no soda, no junk food, no artificial colors, no artificial anything, no processed junk. If you don’t know what clean eating looks like then read my post The Beginner’s Guide to Clean Eating.
If you insist on eating these toxic foods then you can expect illness, aches, stomach issues, and painful aging to be part of your life. I say this with love and not judgment…please make your health a priority.
A few other things and causes to consider.
Teething: Teething is a common cause of ear pain in kids. If your little one is teething consider giving them homeopathic teething tablets. These saved us while my daughter was teething. They were effective on her every single time.
Allergies: If you have allergies or sinus pressure from a cold this too can cause ear pain. You’ll probably know if this is the case since the symptoms are pretty obvious.
My favorite remedy for sinus issues is a sinus irrigation using either a neti-pot or a syringe bulb (used gently). Use boiled and then cooled to warm water with fine pure salt (always boil your water before using it for sinus irrigation, or risk brain eating amoebas).
If we’re talking about an adult you can also do a steam inhale with a 1-2 drops of eucalyptus essential oil. This works wonders, just make sure to keep your eyes closed and cover your head with a tower…then take long deep breaths.
For kids and adults a warm compress like a hot water bottle or even warm washcloth over the affected area can make a big difference. You can use this for any kind of ear pain too, not just for sinus issues.
Foreign objects: Stuff in the ear can also be a culprit. Kids do like shoving things in odd places after all. If this is the case you definitely want a trained professional to extract said object. No one wants a damaged eardrum.
Bugs: I’ve also heard of ear aches caused by errant silverfish, roaches, and bugs. Eeek! If you feel movement buzzing, or vibration in your ear this may be the reason. I’ve never experienced this but I’ve seen recommendations of either gently flushing the ear with warm water using a bulb syringe (makes sense) or using a few drops of olive oil to kill it. A doctor can extract the bug for you if it doesn’t make it way out.
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There you have it. A handful of very effective natural remedies for earaches and infections to help get you or your little one better in no time.
I hope these remedies help and remember to always trust your instincts and stay vigilant. While it’s true most ear infections resolve themselves, they can quickly turn into more serious infections. Keep an eye out for worsening conditions, fever, and signs of deterioration.
If in doubt seek medical attention and preferably get the blessing of your pediatrician BEFORE going natural.
Do you have a favorite natural remedy for ear infections? Is there a natural remedy I missed? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
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Until next time amazing families!
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Scandorieiro, Sara et al. “Synergistic and Additive Effect of Oregano Essential Oil and Biological Silver Nanoparticles against Multidrug-Resistant Bacterial Strains.” Frontiers in Microbiology 7 (2016): 760. PMC. Web. 6 June 2016.
Lambert, R.J.W. , Skandamis, P.N. , Coote, P.J. and Nychas, G.-J.E. (2001), A study of the minimum inhibitory concentration and mode of action of oregano essential oil, thymol and carvacrol. Journal of Applied Microbiology, 91: 453–462. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2672.2001.01428.x
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